If this kid doesn’t burn out and improves with age, he will be one to watch.


Well, it’s almost time for another round of football. In high school, I anxiously awaited Friday night (or Saturday morning). There is a feeling of nervous excitement in preparing for the game, putting on my uniform. I always felt the butterflies in my stomach as I prepared for team introductions or to take the field. There was always the desire to represent my school and leave the field victorious. There was the utter disbelief the only time I caught a pass, turned, and saw nothing between me and a few short steps to the end zone. There was the subsequent mugging of my teammates as I held the ball aloft, hearing the cry of “Don’t spike the ball!” from the fullback, who was scared that I would lose my head, spike the ball, and incur a penalty that would wipe the touchdown off the board.

Unfortunately the victories didn’t come easily. In three years of high school football, the teams I was on won only 4 of 30 games. There was utter misery in the locker room at the end of my senior season, having lost every single game with only the first and last ones being truly competitive matches.

I didn’t play football in college. I was much too small for a football player at an SEC school, even Vanderbilt. I was eager to go to the games at Dudley field, though, as the football team marched out to a 4 and 0 record. It looked like a great shot of getting another winning record only 2 seasons after the last bowl effort. Heck, the team even beat the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa. Who cared if the Tide was having an off year? Vandy beat Alabama! We talked eagerly in the freshman dorm about making plans to go to a bowl game. Then everything came crashing down with the football team losing 6 of the last seven games. Heck, by my sophomore year, we were going wild when Vanderbilt TIED a game against Georgia! Thank God I didn’t choose Vanderbilt for its football team. Little did I know that it would be 20 more consecutive losing seasons for Vanderbilt football after I graduated. I don’t typically get emotional about sporting events, but I have to admit that I felt a few tears welling up watching the closing minutes of the replay of Vandy’s first bowl game in 26 years, and first bowl win in over 50 years. Perhaps the football team will get another bowl game before my ashes are scattered. I’m not holding my breath, though.

All of that futility has given me a great appreciation for the underdog. With all of these schools that are perennially ranked in the upper echelons, it gives a sense of enjoyment when they end up on the wrong end of the box score. Most of the schools have a smug fan base that just expects its team to win. The look of shock and dejection is priceless. In a sense, it is a good reminder that one shouldn’t rely on things totally out of his/her control to bring happiness.

I’ll be scanning the scoreboards on Saturday looking for those upsets to pop up and cheering for those underdogs to have their shining moment where they take something away from the big guys.